The company tasked with shipping Hawaii's waste to the mainland has signed off on the agreement to get the job done, yet even after an eight month delay the company is still doing more talking than shipping.
The compliance agreement has been ready for nearly three weeks but Hawaiian Waste Systems hadn't signed it, which caused some to worry that it would walk away. But today the USDA confirmed it has received the signed agreement.
Some of the trash bales haven't moved an inch since September yet they're closer to making the 2,900 mile voyage across the Pacific Ocean. The signed the compliance agreement means there's nothing standing in the way of shipping the trash as far as the permitting process is concerned.
"I think it's a good sign for getting this waste shipped off island the fact that the operators have signed the compliance agreement with the USDA. We're still waiting to hear what the timing might be, what's going to happen moving forward, but the fact that compliance agreement is signed is a step in the right direction," said Todd Apo, Honolulu City Council Chair.
We're told the company has deals in place to deliver to Longview, Washington and has the barge, train and trucking companies ready to make that move. Yet the trash still sits because the company is talking with the city over contract details. Hawaiian Waste was supposed to ship 100,000 tons by September 28. There's no way that can happen unless the contract or permits are changed.
"The City is continuing to work with HWS' attorney to determine what can be done within the bounds of the contract in our attempt to negotiate some form of resolution. Since last year, the City has been working with HWS to try and make this interim shipping of municipal solid waste a reality," said Tim Steinberger, Honolulu Environmental Services Department Director, in a written statement.
"Nobody wanted to see this happen, nobody wanted to see these stacked up so I certainly hope this is a sign the steps are being taken care of and we're going to see these on a barge to some landfill that's not on our island," said Apo.
Those close to the situation say Hawaiian Waste should want to move quickly. They are leasing land and shipping containers to store thousands of tons of waste off site at facilities they don't have permits for. That prompted a $40,000 fine from the state. Furthermore they don't get paid until the trash actually lands in the landfill so you wouldn't think the company would just bail on the trash situation.
This is a $10 million a year contract and there are penalties. For every ton Hawaiian Waste does not deliver it would owe the city $100 which could add up to millions.